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Why does EVERYONE want to master their own project?

I would like to know why everyone seem to want to do everything from writing the music to playing the music to recording the music to mixing the music and then mastering their own material. Does everyone want to suddenly be considered a renaissance person (meaning someone who can do everything?) Or is their some other reason for this trend?

I do not consider myself a musician (although I took 8 years of classical piano) and would not even consider playing or writing any musical material but I see so many people on this forum who want to master their own material along with recording it and playing I would like to ask the question WHY? Is it financial? Is it for fun? Is it for the ultimate control of the project? What is the real reason???????

Mastering takes a specialized room, specialized equipment, great monitors and amplifiers and lots and lots of experience doing lots and lots of projects for lots and lots of different clients. It is not something you wake up one morning and just decide to do.

So I will ask the ultimate question.

Why do you want to master your own material?

Thanks in advance for any insight into this question.


iznogood Sun, 07/18/2004 - 06:12

the price drop and feature boost of software leads people to think that word makes you a writer and t-racks makes you a mastering engineer!!

many musicians also thinks that because they played piano for eight years they also know everything about sound/mastering...

and sadly... many of my customers have had bad experiences with mastering.... and maybe that leads people into thinking they can do better???

last but not least MONEY!!!!

noone wants to pay for anything anymore!!!

they use cracked software on a cheap windoze machine to produce lame records that everyone downloads for free!!

and record companies put out records that was NOT recorded by a sound engineer.... and was NOT mixed by a mixing engineer... and... you get it!!

Ben Godin Sun, 07/18/2004 - 07:42

well see Tom, it is money that plays a role, when a normal band ( and by normal i mean not endored by a paying label), decides to have mastering done, they realise two things, #1 they just spent 70 dollars an hour recording, and they are already bottomed out. They hear of mastering and are like, "thats what i need to do", so they go online and find out that mastering engineers charge a good sum of money. Although they have been told by the RE that mastering is essential, they realise that at the present time, they have a very tight budget, that is why one of the crafty members of the band ,downloads t-racks, and "masters his own work."

In the end, it all comes down to money, unless you have a label who is paying for all of the studio time and mastering and replication and endorsing the band and etc. , mastering seems like a dark and unnecessary term in you book.

Kurt Foster Sun, 07/18/2004 - 10:10

I think money plays a large role but I also think that because mastering has become the final bastion of professional engineers, every Tom, Dick and Harry that comes along entertains the idea that they too, can become a mastering engineer.

An example, the individuals who frequent mastering forums for several months asking questions and pumping the experts for the secrets of room design, speaker and amp choice and how it is all interconnected, who then announce they are in business and will master a song free for any prospective client ...

I suspect that the home recordists that is most able to really do their own mastering (the ones with the gear and the ears) probably are the only ones who actually have a pro ME do their mastering, leaving the bullsh*t mastering to those who really don't have a clue ...

Ben Godin Sun, 07/18/2004 - 14:42

You are also right Kurt, but look at it this way. If i record a band and offer them, at extra charge mastering, and i manage to get good sounding material to them. Why not go for the extra $?

The band usually doesn't have enough money for pro mastering, so i slip in the extra mastering idea for a MUCH reduced price, im not going to charge them 100/song knowing that i don't do pro work. I charge them an extra 25/song, and feel that the money they pay me is worth the work that i do. If time comes where the band with which i am working is sponsored by a label or has loads of money, i send that material to a full scale pro mastering facility and they pay that studio the hefty fee.

I mean this idea of home mastering isn't for everyone, if you downright don't have a clue about how to master material, don't do it, but i've been doing this for 5 years now, and i feel compitent, not professional, but i feel that for my clients, the mastered material that they recieve colours and warms the mix, and comes out sounding good and just close to professional. 8-)

Michael Fossenkemper Sun, 07/18/2004 - 18:56

All serious bands, producers, and engineers that I know don't do their own mastering. they send it out. Singer songwriters making a demo CD has their drummer master the record. After the 5th attempt, they end up calling a recommended ME. Personally, I like it this way. I only work on serious records with people that do this for a living and not a hobby.

Massive Mastering Sun, 07/18/2004 - 19:27

All I use WaveLab for is PQ editing and the burn. Any manipulation "in the box" is done in Nuendo. I do a lot of home & project stuff that requires a little more "massaging" than many other recordings... Depending on the job, I may have 4-6 copies of a single stereo track running in unison, all treated independently. As much as I love WaveLab, it doesn't love me when I need to really dig into the bag.

Don Grossinger Mon, 07/19/2004 - 08:17

I'm sure it's a financial thing too. In many cases the recording process is done "in the box". The recording of a project costs little more than the computer & software combined. Sometimes a dedicated recording or mix engineer is brought in. But it seems to me that most of the costs involved are production & replication costs. A "mastering software package" is usually included or can be added on at minimal extra expence. People figure that they can do the job themselves & save all that $$$ they would have to pay a M.E.. Also some people have a hard time "letting go" of their baby.

The value of letting an experienced professional work on their project is downplayed or lost in the economic picture. For mastering to really be done right, a certain detatchment from the recording process must exist. Also, the room & setup must be such that educated decisions can be made about the final sound of the project as a whole. That's the real value of mastering.

maintiger Mon, 07/19/2004 - 09:49

the answer is having a project with a budget. If the project at hand is going places mastering is budgeted and figured in it. If like most most "recording and i hope I land a deal somewhere" projects out there, with just barely a budget eeked out from day jobs, mastering is way down the line, a nebulous equation at best. Michael said it best, he works with only serious projects with people who do it for a living and not for a hobby. That seems to be the bottom line. If you do it for a living you always have a budget for mastering.

maintiger Mon, 07/19/2004 - 10:03

Further elaborating on the subject: right now I am working on a couple of projects that I hope turn into a couple of movie deals. I am sending my demos to my contact, the excecutive producer of the movie company. You betcha I will do my damdest to make the best sounding demo I can give him but I don't think I will expend the extra grand for mastering. I just don't have the money to spend for something that I will have to redo anyway if I get the deal and the budget. If I get the go-ahead in any of these projects I will hire a studio and also real musiciand to redo the midi and loop parts. there will also be a budget for mastering, of course.

I think a lot of the people who are interested in mastering in our forums are just recording a CD for their band to sell at gigs and also to generate interest in their band. they are trying to get their CD's sounding as good as possible and you can't blame them for that. Of course, mastering will enhance their CD by a lot but the extra $$$ does hurt. And remeber, if this hypothetical band creates a buzz and gets a record deal, the label will more than likely re-record the tracks and of course, send it out to get mastered. everytime when a project changes from a hobby I-hope-I-get-it situation to a pro-recording situation, there will be a budget and money for mastering.

Don Grossinger Mon, 07/19/2004 - 12:03

maintiger wrote: the answer is having a project with a budget. If the project at hand is going places mastering is budgeted and figured in it. If like most most "recording and i hope I land a deal somewhere" projects out there, with just barely a budget eeked out from day jobs, mastering is way down the line, a nebulous equation at best. Michael said it best, he works with only serious projects with people who do it for a living and not for a hobby. That seems to be the bottom line. If you do it for a living you always have a budget for mastering.

I understand that situation. I deal with MANY independent musicians and bands without contracts. Many of these folks DO sell their CDs at gigs, etc. But if you burn your fans who have just attended a show, and are coming out of the experience with a warm & fuzzy feeling toward the band, then the last thing I would want as a band is to ruin that impression when they get home & put on a CD that sounds like a home made project. Same thing with a demo going to a label with a possibility of signing a long desired contract.

If people save all kinds of budget by recording on their own, to me, the best place to put resources is into a good mastering job. This will allow you to compete with all the other CDs in the market.

PLAN AHEAD & give it a shot

It really makes a difference.

Don Grossinger Mon, 07/19/2004 - 14:09

huub wrote: i wouldn't call it mastering, but why not try and make your mix as loud as possible yourself?..nuttin wrong with that is it?..if i ever get to release my own music commercially, i'll have it mastered in abbey road or whatever...(wich isn't insanely expensive b.t.w.)

From my point of view, making the mix "as loud as possible" is absolutely not mastering. This approch is what gives the mastering process a bad name.

Any project that goes out with your name on it, either to be sold anywhere or to be sent as a demo can benefit from real mastering. The sound of the music represents the sum total of the quality of the band. It is the way you present yourself to the world. I believe that attitude IS wrong, huub. Even if you want it done cheaply, bring it to someone with fresh ears, no preconcieved attitude about the lead singer (just for example) and a room & equipment you can trust.